Ubuntu's Lucid Lynx: A (free) Mactastic experience
Command-line interfaces are for nerds
Review Ubuntu 10.04, officially available as of Thursday, is an important update for this popular Linux distro. It's a Long-Term Support (LTS) release - the first since 8.04 two years ago - and it wraps social network with media capabilities and a brace of online services in a brand new look.
As an LTS edition, Lucid Lynx will be supported for the next three years on the desktop and five years on the server instead of the usual 18 months of free security updates.
Therefore, it will set the scene for Ubuntu for a decent chunk of time and provide a launch pad for the distro's move down a more refined and user-friendly path that subsequent releases should build upon.
Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth wants Ubuntu to beat Apple's OS X on features and interface polish. While Lucid Lynx still has some rough edges, this release is a huge leap for UI design in Linux and puts Ubuntu well on its way to Shuttleworth's goal.
There are, however, some changes that will no doubt raise the ire of die-hard Linux fans. For example, the close, minimize and maximize window buttons are now on the left (ala OS X) by default. It's a small change, but an endlessly frustrating one if you're used to the old style. Fortunately, a quick trip to the gconf-editor will realign the buttons with your muscle memory.
Ubuntu One music: no iTunes beater - yet
Other, less annoying changes give Ubuntu a nice, more polished look. Most of the GNOME panel widgets look much nicer in this theme, and the icon set is considerably better than what we saw in the beta.
But the changes in Ubuntu 10.04 aren't just skin deep. There are quite a few new applications, features, and services that make Ubuntu seem more like a consumer-friendly operating system like OS X than the Linux of the command line loving past.
Between Canonical's web-based syncing service Ubuntu One, the coming U1 music store and the new Me Menu, Lucid Lynx is looking less like the stoic Linux desktops of yesteryear and more like like, well, what everyday consumers want in an operating system. It's even got quite a few features Apple can't match. Oh, and it's free.
The installation process for Ubuntu hasn't changed much over the last few releases, though the installer 10.04 does give you a glimpse of the new default theme, called Ambiance. A nice mixture of muted purples, oranges, and browns, Ambiance has a somewhat darker and more professional look than the old human theme.
Aside from the slick new looks, the default GNOME desktop has been considerably changed in Ubuntu 10.04, with redesigned widgets and the new Me Menu. The Me Menu is a gateway to quickly access chat clients and "broadcast accounts" - which include Twitter, Facebook, and the like - through the very slick social networking tool, Gwibber. Ubuntu One adds online backup and file sharing.
Storage FAIL: don't rely on Ubuntu One's web-based backup
The Ubuntu One storage is designed to give you a simple way to backup, sync and share files over the web. Ubuntu One offers 2GB of storage for free, with a 50GB option for $10 per month. Ubuntu One also offers public shared folders, which other Ubuntu users can access from their desktop. Anyone not using Ubuntu can still access the files through their browser.
Sadly, Ubuntu One continued to be somewhat buggy in my test. While actually syncing files, contacts through Evolution and notes through Tomboy worked just fine, the web interface continually timed out or failed to load for one reason or another.
Still, so long as you don't rely on the web-based access, Ubuntu One make a great file syncing service, and now that it's included in the Me Menu, it's even easier to access and share your files.
Next page: Bite out of Apple media
Don't get me wrong, I really like Ubuntu - been using it for a year or more as my main machine, and will upgrade shortly. But why on earth make it more 'MAC OSX'-like? Okay, perhaps the Mac OS is much smoother and better than the various flavours of Windows, but die-hard fanbois are unlikely to switch from Mac even if Ubuntu came with a free bar of gold, and the less it looks like Windows the harder it is to convince the everyday Windows user to switch. If Canonical are after increasing market share this seems a bit strange!
Shouldn't it be possible to have a simple 'OS look' choice screen on first boot? Do you want your Ubuntu to look and feel a lot like a) Mac b) Windows 95 c) Win XP d) Linux command prompt?
What's with Linux app names anyway?
Gotta clear the air on this but there's something I really don't get. What IS it with the stupid, nerdy, geeky, childish names given to most Linux apps? Gwibber? I'm sorry but no matter how good the app is, whoever chose the name Gwibber is fucking retarded. And that's being polite. Same goes for the majority of Linux apps I see - The Gimp being a prime example. I mean - it might just be me but when I hear that name I get a mental image of a fat naked German trussed up in black leather with a rubber ball in his mouth.
For me, it's these naming conventions that put me off Linux. The spirit of geeky one-upmanship compels me regularly to try one variant of Linux or another (Debian, SUSE (through my company), Ubuntu have all been and gone, plus a few of those interface-modded variants such as Mint) but when I go to download an app I want to sync my PDA and find out it's called Slackdribble or some such shite makes me want to puke, cry and panic-uninstall all at the same time.
Linux guys, if you want to conquer the world (and let's face it who doesn't), please, PLEASE get the names sorted out and try and be a little bit professional about it. Just a bit. For me it would make the difference, and who knows, there might be a few million others out there like me.
Let the flaming begin.
FWIW, original AC here....
I too have been installing Unix boxes for years, I still have SCO Xenix 386 here somewhere and I *think* I may even still have the earlier version (I *think* it was named '286' but it's been a while, the SCO unix System V I have doesn't count, it came on new fangled CDs) so I'm not scared of an install or the shell/command line to tweak things (hell,it's my favoured way, even on Windows)
The fact that there are still any magic chickens needed to just install ubuntu (and that's on your hardware, mine will be completely different and therefore require completely different chickens and perhaps a goat) makes it unready for the mainstream because the average Joe user needs to be able to chuck a disk in and let it run. He shouldn't have to drop to a shell and type half the alphabet to get a dependancy to install or run properly. Leave the command line/shell stuff for the intricate difficult bits that require finesse and fine grained control, not the relatively simple task of getting something like a network card to work.
Something the Linux zealots *all* miss is that computing is no longer the preserve of the geek, everyone has a computer now, everyone wants to be able to browse the 'net, plug in peripherals, share files etc. etc.. If it works wihtout intervention then fine but when Linux fails to work straight away, it becomes very unpleasant and difficult very quickly for end users. To be user friendly, it has to be possible for the majority of users to use and configure.
FWIW, I do use Ubuntu desktop as well as Windows 7 and I run a couple of Ubuntu servers (one's a squid proxy and the other is a test machine) but it's just not there yet for the desktop.
I can take a Windows disk and chuck it at almost any machine that has enough disk space, RAM and processor and it installs to the point where it can connect to the 'net and automatically download drivers or, more often, with no further intervention at all, leaving a working desktop.
I will try 10.04, I hope to be pleasantly surprised because I know the evil of Gates and would dearly love to drop him completely. I just can't, not until all my users, friends, family, aquaintances etc. all do too and for that to happen, Linux desktop needs to be *much* better.
FWIW, I hate all Mac, Windows and Linux zealots equally.